Executive Interview : Remote Workers: Benefits and Pitfalls
As time goes, remote workers may become the norm rather than the exception, and the sooner companies start implementing remote worker programs, the sooner they can embrace the future. In the exclusive interview with Sarah-Jane Heber-Hall, Operations Director at Computertel Ltd, the various aspects of remote workers are discussed.
What are the advantages of having remote workers?
It allows companies the ability to offer flexible working opportunities to staff. It also allows companies the ability to offer a nationwide service, by being able to employ people from all over the country.
What are the potential pitfalls associated with remote employing workers?
From an employee's perspective, they sometimes feel excluded from the company as a whole, and can sometimes feel less motivated, as they miss out on regular feedback, office banter and relationship building with the internal customer. From an employer's perspective, a different style of management is required and a bigger element of trust required to make remote working successful.
In your opinion, what are the reasons some companies are reluctant to deploy remote workers?
I think a trust factor is essential for remote working to succeed from a management position and therefore until this is effective, remote working will not be properly accepted within the organization. Eradicating the perception that remote workers gain additional privileges because they do not come into the office daily needs to be consistently re-enforced by the remote worker and their managers. Therefore, it may be difficult for organizations to put into place different management styles, procedures and practices to make remote working a successful and positive job function.
For a business manager who is looking at remote workers for the first time, what technology can they take advantage of and how does this help them manage performance?
It is fundamental that a remote worker is allowed access to the same information that an office worker has, so the deployment of secure remote access to company servers, databases, CRM systems and other management information is imperative. The speed of the network also needs to be fast and effective, so that the remote worker is allowed to work at the same speed as the office worker. Access to the same telephony system as the office is also useful, so that calls can be received, transferred and made in the same way as the office telephones. IP telephony is excellent for this. It is also a great touch if the remote worker is given a camera and telephone extension so that they can see the office environment and speak to staff directly, if and when they want. If it is a two way microphone and camera setup, the office can also see the remote worker too. The technology offered to the remote worker needs to be used to allow them to work seamlessly like they would in the office and have exactly the same tools available to them. This will allow them to be monitored and measured on their performance in the same way as the office based workers.
How would a company go about setting up remote administrators (non contact center work)? Please share some of the steps based on your experience
The primary task is to ensure that the remote worker keeps to the same procedures and processes that the office based workers follow. Ensure that you use a central server for all workers to save information to, so that nothing gets lost or saved to another electronic files and folders. Set guidelines for best practice for remote workers to follow, based around communication flow and open lines of communication, for example, arrange regular telephone conferences, email contacts and feedback sessions to occur, join them in conference calls with others and make sure they are included in all information relay activities. Make others include them in discussions, conferences, emails, etc and arrange for them to visit the offices a few times a year, so that they are reminded that they are part of a team and a valued part of the company. Also remember to share information relating to work colleagues, office gossip and office banter, the little things that makes working at your company fun.
How do you monitor performance of remote workers and ensure they are working productively?
The remote worker should be monitored in the same way as office based workers. If necessary, revamp your performance review processes to make it suitable to carry out remotely. e.g. if you carry out monthly objective reviews, arrange a telephone call monthly with the remote worker and go through the performance review in the same manner as you would with an office based employee. Regular communication relay will also allow you to build trust with each other, monitor productivity and ultimately work seamlessly from a remote location.
Can you share any other learning experiences you have had using remote workers in your organization?
Make sure that your procedures are fluid and can be evolved, changed and adapted to suit the individual person and the needs of the organization. Include the remote worker in the process, build a relationship with them and never be frightened of a trial and error approach until you find the right mix for that person.
About Sarah-Jane Heber-Hall:
Sarah-Jane Heber-Hall is the Operations Director at ComputerTel Ltd.
About Computertel Ltd.:
ComputerTel is a communications company specialising in the supply of voice/data recording and quality evaluation solutions, since 1988. We focus on providing cost effective solutions to meet many varied requirements of the UK market, from stand alone units through to CTI based solutions, integrated with not only the major telephone systems, but also customer databases. Our experience has helped achieve a strong knowledge within many markets. This has helped us gain an enviable customer relationship. Clients include: Indesit, Last Minute.com, National Express, TrailFinders, and The Train Line, to name a few. Our philosophy is to always give our customers the most innovative and cost effective solution to meet their present and future requirements. In everything we do our clients and the service we provide them, always comes first.
Published: Thursday, December 03, 2009